A twenty-something's foray into the domestic arts.

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The Most Expensive Tomato Sauce I’ve Ever Eaten

For my birthday, I was a nerd and asked for a Pressure Canner. The hubs delivered. I got the All-American 15 1/2 QT Pressure Cooker/Canner… the thing is a beast. It should be, for $330 marked down to $174.99!

Of course now that I had a new Pressure Canner, I had to make something. I set my sights on tomato sauce. One, because I HATE store bought sauce and two, because I’m afraid of the BPA that leaches into all things canned tomato. Thus, I started on my journey of making the most expensive tomato sauce I’ve ever eaten.

Saturday I hit a farm stand and got myself a whole bushel of tomatoes for $15.00. I’m leaning on that as my “steal” in this whole process. Honestly, that is a TON of tomatoes. I also grabbed some garlic and onions – $5.00 more. The other ingredients I had at home, so I caught a break with a few freebies. (NOTE: Based on this paragraph, you should see how cheap it  actually is to make sauce and how I’m being facetious with my title.)

Once I decided on sauce, I needed a way to easily make it. If you’ve ever canned tomatoes, you know there is nothing worse than standing over a pot of boiling water to help take the skins off then seeding them by hand. No way was I doing that… then cutting them into miniscule pieces to cook down. Therefore, I ordered a food strainer. (Amazon Prime is a dangerous thing to have at my disposal.) The Victorio VKP250 Model 250 Food Strainer and Sauce Maker cost me $47.97 and arrived at my doorstep before I could even borrow one from a friend.

From start to finish, the sauce took over 24 hrs to make. No, I’m not exaggerating. We started on Tuesday night at 7:00 pm with the cleaning, straining, cutting and separating. We strained 3/4 of the bushel and put it in a roaster to simmer and cook down overnight. The other 1/4 I removed the skins and seeds and left them whole so the sauce would have some texture; I threw them in the fridge overnight.

I had the best kitchen helper ever.

The next morning at 8:00 am, I turned the heat up on the roaster to really let it cook. I threw in my whole tomatoes from the fridge. Inevitably, I also took 1/2 of my whole tomato reserve and diced it – giving me a good variety of tomato chunks in difference sizes. Into the roaster, I threw in 2 whole garlic bulbs that I cloved and chopped up and sautéed in olive oil with 2 whole onions that were chopped as well. Seasonings included Italian Seasoning, chicken bouillon, salt, pepper, and sugar to taste. Before I jarred it, I also threw in fresh basil from the backyard.

I let the sauce cook down until around 5:00 pm. By that time, it was super chunky and most of the water in the tomatoes had disappeared. I started to can. I come from a family where my mom, best intentions at heart, often strikes illogical fear into you when she deems something even somewhat unsafe. The entire time I was using my pressure cooker, I heard her voice saying “Pressure cookers can explode with no warning and burn your face off.” After reading the safety manual two times through, and processing two white-knuckled batches of tomato sauce, I now find this to be completely false. You have to be a complete idiot incapable of following giant warning labels, operating a terrible canner to have this problem. Anyways, by 9:00 pm the next  night (Wednesday), we had finally finished our sauce making process.

The end result, 11 qts of tomato sauce. (Yes, I was disappointed too – all that lead up for 11 measly jars.) If you add up my costs of the canner, strainer, ingredients, etc… I paid roughly $23 a jar. The husband looked at me when we were all done and said, “Just think, in a few short years we will recoup our costs and be rolling in it from all the money we save on sauce at the store.” He is a positive(ly sarcastic) fellow.

September 20, 2012   No Comments

Vegetable Chicken Stir-Fry Recipe

Vegetable Chicken Stir-Fry

I’ve made this dish twice in the last 4 days, so my house thinks it’s pretty tasty. Don’t be afraid to change out the vegetables; we ran with what we could get locally or from the garden. In fact, I even threw in some veggies we had left over from a party tray. Also, I like to serve this with long grain white rice. The organic brand from Whole Foods is super yummy, and fluffs up perfectly.

Ingredients

3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon chicken bouillon
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
3 garlic cloves, minced
Dash ground ginger
2 tablespoons sesame oil, divided (you can sub in olive oil)
1 head of broccoli, cut into florets
1 zucchini, sliced
1 red pepper, sliced
1 cup carrots, sliced
1/2 large sweet onion, sliced
2 handfuls of fresh green beans, prepared and cut in half (this is how I measure from the garden)

Directions

In a bowl, combine the cornstarch, broth, soy sauce, sugar and chicken bouillon until smooth; set aside. In a large nonstick skillet, stir-fry the chicken, garlic and ginger in hot oil for 4-5 minutes or until the chicken is no longer pink. Remove and keep warm.

In a large skillet, stir-fry the vegetables in remaining oil. You can vary adding them into the pan if you like some vegetables crunchier than others. Stir the broth mixture and add it to the pan. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 1 minute or until thickened. Add chicken; cook until heated through. Yield: 4-6 servings.

This recipe was based off of the Vegetable Chicken Stir-Fry recipe from Taste of Home.

September 19, 2012   No Comments

Handmade Doll with Simplicity Pattern 1900

I LOVE handmade baby items. Don’t people make the sweetest things for the little gems in our lives?! I have a board on Pinterest just to keep track of it all. Dolls top my list though.

Simplicity Pattern 1900

When I saw Simplicity Pattern 1900 I had to have it. Bless Jo Ann’s for running their 99 cent sale every so often so I can stock up. Honestly, who doesn’t love a handmade doll with removable clothes that include a dress, shoes and a beret? (Haters… refrain.)

Handmade Doll

Per usual, I entered my local county fair and thought this handmade doll would make the perfect entry into the Stuffed Animal/Toy category. You agree it is a stuffed toy since you can play with it, right? Also per usual, there was an entirely separate category for dolls almost guaranteeing I will not place again. It’s always something!

Anyways, I thought this pattern was wonderful to work with. The directions were clear and concise, helping the doll to come together in no time. I do have a few notes worth sharing:

1. The arms & legs were a bit skinny for me. I recommend cutting those pieces thicker so they are easy to turn inside out and stuff without ripping any side stitches.

2. Based on the comment above, muslin seemed a bit flimsy for me. If little kids are really the intended audience, I think it should be made from a more durable fabric. My muslin felt too thin to stand up to a childhood of use.

3. The shoes should be made of felt. The directions don’t call for a lot of finishing, so having a fabric that won’t fray makes the most sense.

4. The boy pattern needs completely redone… I had to look 3 times on the front to determine that was a male doll. I propose he lose the scarf and overall shorts entirely and simplify with a simple short and button down shirt set. If you’re sewing for a boy, make sure you bring your creativity to the party. Or, check out these similar dolls on Etsy that have a more manly feel.

August 27, 2012   6 Comments

I don’t need… I want…

Hunter rain boots. Everytime it rains I wonder why I don’t own a pair yet. Of course, it’s the ridiculous price tag… but I’m going to breakdown and consider them an investment. This Spring is my season for stylish puddle jumping.

My obsession with these gems started last July (how have I held off this long?!) when I saw a fabulous light pink pair in a shop window in Manchester, VT. It was clearly love at first sight since I took a picture of them. Who wouldn’t swoon over that color?!

Pink Hunter Rain Boots

Well, this is one time my frugal ways have come to bite me in the ass. This color is apparently last season now; I can’t find them anywhere. Instead, they’ve been replaced by some ugly magenta.

So, now the dilemma is… what color do I order? I think I’ve determined that the novelty colored boots will go in and out of style too quickly, and I want a pair that will last. I’ve narrowed it down to Cafe Latte, Navy, and Yellow.

Hunter Rain Boots

Care to weigh in?

What color Hunter rain boots do you like best?

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March 14, 2012   4 Comments

A Pirate Apron and Other Treasures

Ahoy Mateys! Arrgghh… OK… pirate talk is sort of lame, I will spare you the pain.

Pirate Chef Apron

I made this pirate apron for my cousin Gina for her 35th birthday. She is a lover of all things pirate. It’s the Fruit Tart apron pattern from A is for Apron by Nathalie Mornu. I didn’t make any changes to the pattern, except for my usual addition of a lining (see other posts below for details). The pirate chef appliqué was a graphic I found in Google, altered in Photoshop to be less intricate, then imported to Make-The-Cut and used my Cricut to cut out.

Pirate Chef Applique

Similar apron blog posts can be found below:

The idea for the apron came from a custom order my cousin put in for party favors. She wanted pirate earrings made to give as “treasures” to her guests. Since one might have a hard time working pirate earrings into their everyday dress, I suggested a red with white polka fabric button earring mounted on a pirate themed piece of cardstock. I came up with two designs; I think they turned out super cute.

Pirate Party Favors - Earrings

The adorable little pirate girl drawing came from a valentine printable you can find here – designed by MerMag. The Jolly Roger came up in a Google image search as a royalty free graphic.

I need to throw myself fun themed birthday parties. Perhaps for the big 3-0 in a few years. At the end of the month, my good friend is throwing herself a 10 year anniversary of her 21st. It’s a hot pink and zebra themed pole party (as in stripper pole exercise class)… that should be entertaining. I’ll be sure to take pics.

March 12, 2012   No Comments

Do & Don’t: Peanut Butter Truffle Brownies & Turtle Cookies

While everything looks yummy in a beautifully Photoshopped image on Pinterest, let’s face it… some recipes on there are just duds. Recently, I’ve made a few awesome recipes, and some that I’m surprised someone actually put up on the Internets. Today, I share a winner and a loser.

Oh, and I’ve found it best to start relegating my fails to a new board on Pinterest I’ve called “Looks good, tastes bad“. You may want to check it out before you give something a whirl. My keepers/make-agains are now  on a separate board as well – “Tried & True – Recipes Worth Making“.

I brought both of these recipes to a Super Bowl Sunday party. The feedback comes from not only me, but from my husband’s college roomates… who are honest enough to tell me when something works… and when it does not.

WINNER: Peanut Butter Truffle Brownies from Betty Crocker

 

Brownie, peanut butter filling, and a ganache topping … what’s not to love here? This is the perfect combination. These were so soft and delicious. They were gone in less than 10 minutes at the party. Enough said.

LOSER: Turtle Cookies from Rock Recipes

 

Turtles are one of my favorite candies. So, when I saw these I thought they would be yummy. They look so chewy and inviting in the picture. Fact is, the chocolate cookie baked up like biscotti, making it really crispy and crumbly. Then, the entire caramel in the middle got rock hard post-oven. I had two people tell me they almost lost teeth biting into them. Not a good feature in a cookie.

February 28, 2012   No Comments

DIY Gender Baby Cake

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of helping my good friend announce the gender of her baby to close family and friends.  I’d never heard of this new unveiling method, but apparently it’s a popular thing to bake a gender cake and throw a bash for it. The color on the inside of the cake tells people whether it’s a girl or a boy.

The inspiration for the cake came from the Celebration Cake post on Cupcakes and Cashmere.  The cake was baked using David’s Yellow Cake recipe from AllRecipes.com. It’s a dense cake, which makes it perfect for decorating. When I baked it, I did 1 1/2 times the original recipe; there is a simple adjuster for servings on AllRecipes.com. I had to do this because I used 2 9 inch rounds (instead of 8 inch) to create the 4 layer cake.

The frosting was to die for; it’s the Creamy Vanilla Frosting recipe from Magnolia’s. My friend wanted only the frosting between the cake layers to be colored. We made sure to do a border of white frosting on the inside of each layer so the colored frosting didn’t smear out onto the outside of the cake.

The cake was finished off with my favorite kind of sprinkles, Confetti Sprinkles! Honestly, they make any cake item taste better and the colors are so pretty. I also made a sweet little cake banner that said “It’s a…”.

BOY

The Nana-to-be got the privilege of pulling out the first slice. It was so cute to see everyone’s faces eagerly awaiting as it was served. I was really honored to be part of such a special event.

Congratulations Lisa & Dave… can’t wait for Baby D to get here!

February 25, 2012   3 Comments

Dwight Schrute Valentine’s Day Card

Obviously we love The Office in our house. Not only did I hijack this awesome Dwight Schrute drawing to create a custom card for the hubs, but he snuck a quote from his Office daily calendar into my card. It read: “Anybody can be Prince Charming one day a year with the dinner and the flowers and all that, but you know what impresses me? When a guy can do that no days a year.” – Ryan. I’m married to such a romantic.

Happy Valentine’s Day!!!

 

February 14, 2012   2 Comments

Valentine’s Day Felt Heart Wreath Crafternoon Project

With Valentine’s day just around the corner, there are some fabulous craft projects flying around the “internets”. A few weeks ago, I had some great ladies over for a crafternoon and we decided to tackle one of said projects. Our craft: The very popular felt heart wreath.

Source: theidearoom.net via Beth on Pinterest

The creator of this project has a wonderful tutorial on her blog, The Idea Room. We followed her instructions step by step. Our only complaint was we all felt like we needed more felt (awkward sentence). I would recommend buying a yard, instead of the 3/4, if you’re going to make this yourself. Other than that, while time consuming, it was a straight forward and easy project. The finished wreath looks perfect in pink on my red front door!

Here are our final snapshots.

Pretty in pink!

This group was not about getting their picture taken.

This is a seductive color scheme - lol

My mom's - she actually made 2 wreaths in the time we all made 1!

Snazzy with a 3 color combo!

January 24, 2012   3 Comments

Pinterest & Pepperjack Potatoes

A friend and I were talking today about Pinterest and how everyone and their mother is on it now, pinning away like a mad woman. It got me to thinking how many things must end up on people’sboards where they stay forever as just an idea or good intention.

To help combat this, every week I’m going to try and share (yes, I’m starting with the best intentions) solid recipes and projects I’ve found on Pinterest – or I pinned from other sources and were well received with lots of repins. This way, instead of just admiring the pretty pictures, you can feel confident in giving them a whirl yourself.

Tonight, I’m starting with a recipe for Pepperjack Potatoes.

 

I don’t know how you could go wrong with potatoes and cheese of any kind. But, these were divine. They were super easy to make and a new take on a traditional side dish. The original recipe can be found here; below I’m providing my version since I doubled it for a crowd of 7 and used a combo of cream and milk to lighten it up.

Pepperjack Potatoes Recipe

Ingredients:

10 medium sized russet potatoes, cut into 1 inch chunks
8 oz block of pepperjack cheese, shredded
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk
Salt

Directions:

Place peeled, cut potatoes into a pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil. As soon as the water starts boiling, cook for 6 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender enough to put a fork through them. The potatoes should be slightly underdone; if you overcook them you’ll end up with pepperjack mashed potatoes (which would also be yummy per my brother’s opinion).

Drain the potatoes and put them back into the pot. Add in your shredded cheese, heavy cream, and milk. Stir until the cheese is melted. If you prefer it to be creamier, add more cream or milk. If needed, also add salt to taste.  (Every brand of cheese is different, so I like to leave the salting until the final moment).

Transfer to a big bowl and serve immediately to enjoy all of the creamy cheese goodness.

Looking for something to serve with these?

I paired my pepperjack potatoes with Sage and Garlic Crusted Pork Tenderloins and steamed asparagus.

January 22, 2012   No Comments

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